Christmas in London is nothing less than magical. While London is delightful no matter the season, it is even more so when it’s wrapped in festive decorations and lights, all merry and bright. Though I do love the quaint and traditional European Christmas markets,
I’m a bright-lights-big-city kinda girl, so along with holidays spent in New York City
, Christmas in London ranks as one of my most memorable, full of all the fun, festive activities you’d expect to find in Europe’s biggest metropolis.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is part amusement park, part Christmas market and totally fun! Free to enter, and very big, with a ton of rides and attractions, cafes, and music, it’s easy to spend an entire day there. It’s also easy to spend a lot of money, because while entry is free, the rides and attractions are not, and require tokens, which cost £1 each and are available at the token booths found around the park and can’t be bought in advance. Most rides start at £3, while kid’s rides start at £2. Keep in mind many of the rides for small kids require an adult with a £3 token accompany them.
Many attractions, like the Magical Ice Kingdom, ice-skating and the circus, sell out during peak periods, so it’s wise to buy tickets in advance for these activities.
Shopping – Since shopping is one of my favorite things to do in London (actually, I love to do that anywhere, but we’re talking about London) hitting the city’s famous department stores and High Street is a must! During the Christmas season there is the bonus of the spectacular window displays as department stores try to out-do each other with wonderful, whimsical, winter scenery. Our favorites included Fortnum & Mason and Hamley’s. Hamley’s, London’s oldest and most iconic toy store, is one not to miss, especially with kids, because what’s Christmas without a massive toy store, right?
For the big kids, there are the Boxing Day sales that start the day after Christmas and last until mid-January, allowing that Christmas spirit to last well into the New Year.
Christmas Lights – In London during Christmastime, the days are merry and bright, thanks in large part to the holiday lights twinkling around the city. Take a walking tour through the West End, with the upscale Bond St. and Regent St., the “swinging” Carnaby St. (yeah, Baby!), and Europe’s busiest shopping street, Oxford St. to see some of the best Christmas light displays.
Covent Garden also has dazzling holiday lights, as well as the impressive Lego Santa Express train made of 500,000 Legos and complete with lights, sounds and smoke.
Holiday Entertainment – Since I always enjoy seeing a theatrical performance while I’m in London, and a seasonal ballet during Christmas, a performance by the Royal Ballet was just the ticket. Miss P, Miss V and I attended the staging of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland at the Royal Opera House. Though the show was a little long, the elaborate staging, vibrant costumes, colorful characters – especially the Queen of Hearts who stole the show – and of course, the dancing, kept us entertained and engaged.
Alice’s adventures replaced the traditional Nutcracker as the main performance of the season, and since the Lovely Ladies and I were replacing some of our own longstanding Christmas traditions, it seemed apropos.
Sightseeing – In addition to gorging ourselves on London’s Christmas scene, the Lovely Ladies and I managed to do a little sightseeing. Intrigued by the much talked about glass walkway in Tower Bridge, we spent the afternoon at the Tower of London complex. Admission included a guided tour of the tower, and an elevator ride to the top where there was a great exhibition on bridges of the world, and the walkway. While Miss P and Miss V thought the walkway was cool, Mom taking off her boots to get a picture of her feet clad in “London” socks, not so much.
The elevator descent down the tower was also included in the admission, but we opted to take the 200-plus stairs, because it was faster than waiting in the long queue (London for “line”) to get into said elevator.
As much as the Lovely Ladies and I did while in London at Christmastime, we only scratched the surface, but there’s always Christmas future to look forward to.
To see more options for ways to celebrate Christmas in London, visit the Time Out London